An English arena rock band mainly active in the 1970s and, to a lesser extent, the 1980s, Bad Company is one of those bands where you've definitely heard their songs, you've definitely sung along, but you don't quite recognize their name. The band was a supergroup formed after the break-up or membership changes of several prominent British rock groups; the original line-up included Paul Rodgers (vocals, keyboards) and Simon Kirke (drums, percussion) from Free, Mick Ralphs (guitar) of glam rockers Mott the Hoople, and ex-King Crimson member Boz Burrell (bass guitar). Second only to Led Zeppelin in terms of popularity, the two groups shared many ties; Bad Company was signed to Led Zeppelin's Swan Song labelnote , Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant also guided Bad Company to success, and Paul Rodgers later played with Jimmy Page in The Firm.
Bad Company became famous for a few singles, like "Feel Like Makin' Love", "Can't Get Enough", "Bad Company", "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" and "Shooting Star". Much like Paul Rodgers' first band, Free, their sound is a mix of blues-influenced Hard Rock and classically-influenced piano ballads. In this respect, they bear some similarities to the mid-to-late-1970s output of Queen, with whom lead singer Paul Rodgers performed after the tragic death of Freddie Mercury.
They broke up in 1982 due to decreasing sales, interpersonal conflicts (Rodgers and Burrell got into a fistfight during the recording of Rough Diamonds), declining interest from Peter Grant (who gradually lost his enthusiasm for the music industry after the death of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), and a general weariness with the Show Business meat grinder. As Mick Ralphs said years later, "Bad Company had become bigger than us all and to continue would have destroyed someone or something."
In 1986, Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke formed a new band — but their then-current label, Atlantic Records, insisted that they use the Bad Company name. With Paul Rodgers busy in The Firm, Brian Howe (formerly Ted Nugent's vocalist) was recruited as the new singer, beginning Bad Company's The Band Minus the Face era. The group also became a Revolving Door Band; several new members came and went, with Ralphs and Kirke as the only constants (at least in the studio — Ralphs had to sit out some tours due to recurring health problems). Eventually Howe was replaced by a third vocalist, Robert Hart. In 1990, they came back with their Holy Water album with its title track, 'Boys Cry Tough', 'If You Needed Somebody' 'Stranger Stranger' and 'Walk Through Fire' as its hit songs. In 1992, their Here Comes Trouble album yielded the hit song 'How About That' as the 1990's were nostalgic for the 1970's.
When Peter Grant died in 1995, the original four members met at his funeral and eventually decided to work together again. This reunion was short-lived (1998–99), but it yielded four new songs that were released on a Greatest Hits compilation, The Original Bad Company Anthology. Since then, Rodgers, Kirke and other musicians (including Ralphs when his health permits) have kept the band sporadically touring ever since. However, there have been no studio recordings since two new songs were added to the 2002 Live Album Merchants of Cool. Boz Burrell died in 2006, making a full reunion impossible, but the other three founders still play live occasionally, doing a series of British concerts in 2016. However, Mick Ralphs suffered a stroke shortly afterwards; although he's recovering, the fact that the British shows were called the "Swan Song Tour" might become unwittingly prophetic. Former vocalist Brian Howe passed away in May 2020.
- Bad Company (1974)
- Straight Shooter (1975)
- Run With the Pack (1976)
- Burnin' Sky (1977)
- Desolation Angels (1979)
- Rough Diamonds (1982) (last full album by the original lineup)
- Fame and Fortune (1986) (first of four studio albums with Brian Howe on vocals)
- Dangerous Age (1988)
- Holy Water (1990)
- Here Comes Trouble (1992)
- Company of Strangers (1995) (first of two studio albums with Robert Hart on vocals)
- Stories Told & Untold (1996) (half new material, half remakes of songs by the original lineup)
Bad Company demonstrates examples of:
- The Band Minus the Face: The 1986–96 era without Paul Rodgers. To be fair, the only reason Ralphs and Kirke used the name "Bad Company" was due to their label's Executive Meddling.
- Canon Discontinuity: The band's official website disavows the existence of any studio album made after 1982's Rough Diamonds, likely because Paul Rodgers doesn't appear on them.
- Though Holy Water is available on iTunes, mostly due to the success of the Power Ballad "If You Needed Somebody."
- Downer Ending: "Shooting Star", about a man named Johnny who becomes a rock star, ends with him dead from a combination of sleeping pills and booze.
- Greatest Hits Album: One of the most recent is essentially a Paul Rodgers album, The Very Best of Free and Bad Company (featuring Paul Rodgers).
- Heavy Meta: "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy", the original line-up's last big hit single.
- I Am the Band: Like Ian Paice of Deep Purple, drummer Simon Kirke is the only member who's been in every version of the band.
- Intercourse with You: "Feel Like Makin' Love".
- New Sound Album: For the most part, the four albums with Brian Howe as lead vocalist, which were less blues-influenced and more in line with Damn Yankees-style '80s arena rock.
- Power Ballad
- Revolving Door Band: Averted with the 1973–82 lineup, but in full effect since 1986. As noted, Simon Kirke is the only member to be in every lineup.
- Rock Star Song: "Shooting Star", which may or may not be about guitarist Paul Kossoff of Free.
- Self-Titled Album: Their debut, Bad Company, complete with Minimalistic Cover Art by Hipgnosis.
- They also have a rare honor of a song called "Bad Company" by the band Bad Company off of the album Bad Company.
- Shout-Out: The inner gatefold of Run With the Pack shows the band sitting in a hotel room, with Bugs Bunny on the TV screen.
- Spiritual Successor: To Free, arguably.
- Stalker with a Crush: The protagonist of the "If You Needed Somebody" video comes across as a benign version of this. It's unclear whether the scene at about 3:23 of him kissing the object of his affection is real or fantasy.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Drummer Simon Kirke sings "100 Miles" on the Holy Water album.
- Yandere: The protagonist of "Burnin' Sky", who breaks out of prison to be with his beloved.